In Her Words: Trusting the Process
We're so happy to have been a small part of this rad lady's journey to her first Ironman World Championships this month in Kona we wanted to share her story with you, but we'll let her tell it in her own words...
Written by Aubrey Wall
Photos by Amber Hoadley ( you can find those on our photo essay)
Finishing second in my age group at my first Ironman was bittersweet. I felt so grateful for a good day - perfect conditions, family and coach greeting me at the finish line, and the opportunity to do what many people will never be able to do in their lives. However, that gratitude also came with the recognition that I did not meet my ultimate goal for the season: qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Going out on race day, I knew I had to get first in my age group to snag a slot to the World Champs. I controlled what I could, but ultimately, who shows up is one thing you cannot control.
My coach, family, and I all attended the Awards Ceremony, followed by the World Championship slot allocation. By that point, I had already accepted I would not be going, but knew it was worth it to stay in case the first place athlete did not take her slot. Before slot allocation began, I approached the first place gal to wish her congratulations on her finish. Little did I know I was in for a big surprise...
Me: “Congrats Kayla! Thanks for pushing me out there yesterday...you are an amazing runner!”
Kayla: “Thank you! What place did you come in?”
Kayla: “Oh! Congratulations! Do you want to go to Kona?”
Me: “Yeah, I really do. That was my goal for the season. But it’s okay, I’ll try for it again next year!”
Kayla: “Well, I am not going to take my slot. I already have another race planned! I am so excited I can help you go to Kona!”
I am pretty sure my jaw hit the floor and stayed there for a good thirty seconds when she told me. I had already accepted I was not going, so having her tell me she would not be taking her slot came as a serious surprise. Between finishing my first Ironman, accepting I had not achieved my primary goal for the season, yet then being surprised by getting a slot after all, those two days were an emotional rollercoaster.
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The next six weeks consisted of a short recovery period, a three-week training block stacked with hard rides, long runs, many swims, and sauna sessions to prepare my body for the heat I would encounter in Kona, finishing with a short taper before race day. There were some hiccups along the way, including a minor foot injury that weighed more on my mental state than it did on my ability to train.
It is easy to get caught up in it all, you know? Despite the endless training hours, it can be easy to feel as though you have not done enough to prepare. All along, I had to remind myself to trust the process, remembering my love for the sport and all of the hard work I had put in to get where I was. And come race morning, I felt calm and prepared to put my body to the ultimate test. I knew I was about to encounter all the elements: ocean swells, wind, heat, and humidity. But I was ready.
I had a strong swim despite the fact my goggles leaked the entire time, making it difficult to sight off of the course buoys. Usually, the swim is my favorite discipline, but I was excited to be out of the water and onto the bike. I approached the bike with confidence, prepared to face whatever challenges were thrown my way. Despite the heat, humidity, and some major wind, I came off the bike feeling strong and ready to conquer the run. However, once I started my run, I realized how hot it had gotten, feeling as though I was running in a sauna. As I ran past my coach at mile two, he asked how I was feeling. “I am so hot,” I responded. He heard the same response at mile ten. Regardless, I knew I would finish, no matter how long it may take.
All of my hard work felt worth it as I jumped (yes, jumped) across the finish line at 11:38, more than twenty minutes faster than my goal, 14th out of 35 in my age group. Though it was a grueling day, at many points during which you question your sanity, I cannot wait to have the opportunity to go back.